The Alexandria SpokesWomen are making bicycling fun and easy, instead of intimidating, through events, social and educational gatherings, and social media. According to Portland State University, 70% of Americans would like to bicycle often, but the League of American Bicyclists says that only15% ride more than once weekly. That means 55% of us aren't getting what we want.
Conventional wisdom holds that fear of traffic causes women to ride at less than half the rate of men, but is it really that simple? So I asked. I heard from Spokes Etc. employee Becky Puritz, Jennifer Hovis of Potomac Greens, Natasha Andersen of Taylor Run, “Susan” (not her real name) of Old Town and Andrea Hamre of Lynnhaven. These are active SpokesWomen of all ages. All have jobs. Some have children.
Is bicycling part of your daily life?
BP: I love biking every day, and joined the sport because I like biking to a destination like work or shopping.
JH: I commute to work on my bike as much as possible and try to consider what errands I can run on my bike rather than driving. Commuting by bike reduces my work stress and it helps that I save money on gas and parking. I'm extremely fortunate that my office building has showers, lockers and a secure bike cage.
NA: For many years it was, but with the kids bigger and changing jobs I find it harder to do my daily commute by bike. I am happy to encourage family bike riding through participation in Kidical Mass [family bike rides].
S: I am cultivating a habit of riding before work and notice that when I get to work I feel much more awake. Bicycling in daily life is a good idea and I hope more people do it even if they just ride around their neighborhood.
Is the bicycle network in Alexandria working for you?
JH: Our bicycle network in Alexandria is far from perfect, but the City has made great strides. As a resident of Potomac Greens, I love the new “advisory bike lanes.” I am so much more comfortable on my daily commute now that I have a designated space to ride, and traffic speeds are definitively lower. I have seen young families riding together in the new bike lanes, where they previously would have ridden on the sidewalk in order to feel safe.
S:I think it would [be a disservice] to have only trails for bikes to use. We need to be on the street with the cars demonstrating that we know the rules of the road and that they can share the road with us and still get where they want to go in a timely fashion.
Is bicycling culture giving women the “cold shoulder”?
S: No, but maybe a better way to view the disconnect is biking style. I ride in an easy going and not particularly fast way by myself. When I bike with men, I am much more brave, ride faster and my posture is more aggressive.
BP: I think the sport of cycling still excludes and alienates women at the highest levels, but the culture of cycling has become more inclusive and urban utility cycling culture in particular has been reaching out to women.
NA: In this area there is a strong female bicycling community that is very inclusive.
Does bicycling need an image makeover?
JH: Absolutely. So much of the car vs. bike fight stems from the misperception that everyone out on a bike is [racing]. Many riders are just looking to enjoy our beautiful city, get some exercise, or run some errands.
NA: [Bicycling] went from "those crazy people" to being "cool." Things like Capital Bikeshare have also helped make biking accessible to a larger group.
AH: Our recent Little Black Dress ride was the first time I had a chance to dress beautifully and ride my bike with a group of women, and it felt great to show onlookers a broader spectrum of what you can look like while using a bike to get around the City of Alexandria.
BP: The makeover is underway, we just have to get behind it!
Is being yelled-at or honked-at by drivers a common experience or is it just me?
NA: It isn't just you. I do vividly remember being yelled out while taking my son home from preschool in the bike trailer. A nice motorist yelled "get a motor vehicle!" Totally bizarre!
S: A few times I've been honked at … in Old Town. People have spoken to me from their cars to thank me for stopping at red lights. One time some men in a van chatted me up at a red light.
JH: I have experienced it from every direction [and] worry that it discourages those who are less experienced. In order for someone to start biking, or start biking MORE, they will absolutely need to feel comfortable doing it.
AH: Street harassment says much more about the harasser than the harassed, and I think the more we can relate to each other and empathize with one another's travel experiences, the safer and more courteous our road culture will be.
I'm a testosterone-addled male who could barely tear himself away from the Tour de France to write up these questions. Whatever the point is, I'm pretty sure I'm missing it. What's the point?
NA: Ha! I think the point is that cities should think beyond the metal coffin. As a mother of a daughter that is just entering Middle School, I like that I can offer her the freedom to walk. Where I grew up the streets were made for cars and I was not afforded the same freedom that a safe street offers. Complete streets matter.
JH: To put it simply, we are trying to create a community of women who enjoy and feel comfortable biking in Alexandria. We have riders of all ages and abilities. We partner with local businesses as much as possible. We are trying to tackle issues that [can be] obstacles to women, whether it's intimidation at the bike shop or wanting to figure out the best way to carry two (or more!) kids by bike.
The League of American Bicyclists released the 2015 Bicycle Friendly Businesses list and two local "businesses" made the list: The Architect of the Capitol and Kevin H Posey, The Biking Realtor Coldwell Banker Residential of Alexandria. [Also A-1 Cycling in Manassas, but that's pretty far out]. All of these businesses are now bronze.
It's kind of odd to award the AOC a designation since the Capitol itself is somewhat not bicycle friendly, though that may be due to the Capitol Police or the Sergeant-At-Arms. For example, there still isn't a CaBi station anywhere on Capitol grounds, even though there were plans to add one near the Capitol South Metro as far back as 2012.
There is one at Penn and 3rd, but that's outside the Capitol grounds.
In addition, barriers erected after 9-11 have made the Capitol grounds less bike friendly, and many of those impacts have not been addressed.
Greg Billing has been promoted to Executive Director following the departure of Shane Farthing.
He has been with the organization for more than five years, most recently as our Advocacy Coordinator. During his tenure, Greg led WABA’s transition to “bicycling for all” advocacy, which focuses on inclusive, comfortable and safe infrastructure and public policies to support growing ridership.
In his own words, “I fell in love with this city by exploring it on my bike. There’s no better way to meet neighbors and connect to the community. I am thrilled to lead the amazing team at WABA as we work to bring access to bicycling to everyone in the region.”
And: “The next chapter for WABA will be exciting as we expand to serve the growing number of everyday and casual riders. We will focus on becoming more inclusive, open and transparent.”
In the coming weeks, WABA will finalize and release a 5-year Strategic Plan—a bike map for the future of the organization. The Strategic Plan presents a vision that recognizes the historic growth and popularity of bicycling in the region and provides a framework for continuing that growth.
In San Francisco, the Wiggle is a route from Market Street to Golden Gate Park. In response to a comment by a SFPD captain vowing a crackdown on cyclists running stop signs, cyclists plan to protest.
The bike coalition opposes the crackdown because it wants police to follow the city’s Vision Zero guidelines of prioritizing enforcement of the five behaviors most likely to cause traffic collisions in San Francisco, all of which involve cars and drivers: failure to yield to pedestrians, speeding, running red lights, ignoring stop signs and violating turn restrictions.
How will they protest?
At 5:30 p.m., scores of bike riders plan to gather at Waller and Steiner streets and pedal the Wiggle, coming to a full and complete stop — bike stopped, at least one foot on the pavement — at every stop sign and red light. Protest organizers are predicting gridlock.
by Jeff Lemieux Like it or not, Greenbelt Road is our city’s Main Street. But Greenbelt Road is built more like a highway than a neighborhood connector. It has high-speed ramps and wide lanes and overhead signs that are designed to allow outside traffic to speed through Greenbelt, not for local access.
As a result, there’s no safe way to walk or bike between Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Goddard. However, there’s an easy solution: A roadside “Greenbelt East” trail. This trail would run from Hanover Parkway to Good Luck Road along the north side of Greenbelt Road. It would be relatively inexpensive to build because there are already wide shoulders and there are few cross streets, so that the trail could run virtually unimpeded. It would be great for bike riders, joggers, and walkers trying to get to the Goddard area from the Greenway Center area. It would also create a much safer space to wait for the bus.
Sidewalks really shouldn’t be placed right up next to the curb on roads where cars routinely drive 40+ miles per hour (sometimes 50+ actually). A trail or sidepath would provide some separation, especially if roadside trees were planted where possible. In many places, the trail would have to be separated from the road with painted buffering, pre-built curbing (curb-stops) and high-visibility flexible posts, such as those used to separate bike trails from traffic in Washington DC. There’s plenty of room for decent separation, especially if the lanes on Greenbelt Road were narrowed to 10’ wide (which also has the beneficial side effect of calming traffic). In several places the long acceleration and deceleration lanes would need to be repurposed for the trail, and the high-speed turn ramps at Mandan Road and ICESat Road would need to be squared off to calm traffic and allow a safe trail crossing.
The following images show my idea for roughly where the trail would go alongside the road. Maybe engineers or designers could think nice landscape treatments to truly make it a greenway. But at the very least, our city should push the State Highway Administration, which controls Greenbelt Road, to make this happen the next time the road needs to be paved.
A trail between ERHS and Goddard would be a huge boost for Greenbelt East. It would allow Goddard workers to safely bike to the Greenbelt Metro (via Historic Greenbelt and the bike lanes on Ivy Lane and Cherrywood Lane). It would allow high schoolers at both ERHS and Duval to get to their internships at NASA without having to drive. It would be great for Greenbelt!
Here are some slides showing roughly where the trail would go and where intersections would need crosswalk improvements:
Trail starts at Hanover Parkway.
Trail can go behind light poles or expand sidewalk to multi-use trail width.
Expand sidewalk to 10′ for multi-use trail; narrow main travel lanes by 1′ each and push curb in 3′ to make room.
Need to pull guardrails and repurpose long acceleration and deceleration lanes for the trail.
Plenty of shoulder room for a protected trail.
High-speed ramps need to be squared off and calmed for safe trail crossing.
Trail would (slightly) help access Greenbelt’s most dangerous bus stop.
Need to square off and calm the high-speed “interchange” at ICESat Road so the trail can cross safely.
Cipriano Road intersection needs crosswalk to get to the strip mall.
Goddard main gate.
Need to repurpose the deceleration lane.
The trail continues to business park at Good Luck Road
Bus access should be safe. This is not safe.
Trail ends at Good Luck (crossing the street) Road.
Jeff Lemieux has been a Greenbelt resident for 26 years or so, living in GHI and Old Greenbelt. He’s a bike commuter to DC, and his first foray into community activism (after avoiding it for years!) has been as a member of Greenbelt’s Advisory Planning Board. Jeff’s wife Laurie owns a bike shop in College Park, and they often lead weekend bike rides toward Beltsville and Bowie or Hyattsville and DC.
At the June 13th Arlington County Board meeting, the County Manager is recommending that the Board approve agreements between the County, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) and Dominion Power that would allow the County to construct and maintain a connector trail from the W&OD Trail to South Carlin Springs Road along an existing desire line to the south of Carlin Springs road and the north of the W&OD (seen here).
While cyclists and pedestrians can currently access the W&OD and FMR trails via the disc golf course and parking lots on the south side of Four Mile Run and via dirt paths on the north side, this 8-foot wide connector would create a more direct, and better quality connection to the W&OD Trail. The connection would include a stop sign giving priority to those already on the W&OD and presumably signage to direct users.
Despite the diminuative size of this project, it has nonetheless attracted some opposition. Namely from Bernie Berne, President of the Buckingham Community Civic Association.
Mr. Berne's primary concern is that the trail will negatively impact what is now a field located along a stream, by replacing a natural billy-goat path with an 8-foot wide swath of pavement and shoulders. He wrote in an email to a parks list serve:
This project would destroy a meadow area in the W&OD Regional Park to construct a needless paved bike trail that would duplicate a nearby connector trail.
The meadow area that the Connector Trail would destroy has developed since the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) placed chains along the W&OD Trail and the N. Carlin Springs sidewalk about five years ago at Walter Tejada's request. These chains stopped the frequent mowing of the area and permitted the meadow to develop. The meadow area presently has wildflowers and is providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
Further, the meadow area is reducing storm water runoff into Four Mile Run.
The Connector Trail is an initiative of DES and the County's Bicycle Advisory Committee that has not [undergone] any public review. The Bicycle Element of the County's Master Transportation Plan does not describe this Connector Trail. Construction of the trail would [contradict] recommendations in the Public Spaces Master Plan that are intended to preserve natural areas in County parks and open spaces.
The Connector Trail is clearly not needed. The W&OD Trail presently connects to the east side of N. Carlin Springs Road via an 8-10 feet wide paved trail on the south side of Four Mile Run. The proposed Connector Trail, which would travel on the north side of Four Mile Run, would duplicate the existing trail.
The proposed Connector Trail would meet N. Carlin Springs Road only 300 feet (0.06 miles) from the existing paved connecting route. Further, pedestrians and runners presently use an informal footpath that travels along the Connector's route; therefore, they would not significantly benefit from the proposed Connector Trail.
Construction of the Connector Trail would place an impervious 8-feet wide strip of asphalt through a natural area. Further, frequent mowing along the sides of the Connector would destroy even more of the natural area and meadow habitat. The total width of the disruption would likely exceed 18 feet.
The Connector Trail would therefore disrupt a planned natural area and destroy a meadow habitat without creating a significant benefit for pedestrians, cyclists or other users of the W&OD Trail. In addition, construction and maintenance of the Connector Trail would waste County funds and resources.
I'm not unsympathetic to the concerns he's raised (and so glad to not have to argue about parking for once), but I disagree about the trail being needless. It clearly has added utility, and the presence of a desire line proves that. While there are a lot of people who can use the current trail, it's not exactly ADA compliant. Nor do I agree that the effective width of this trail will be 18 feet.
I think the benefits in this case likely outweigh the costs (see below), as the meadow is likely to be impacted, but not destroyed. And encouraging more active transportation has environmental (and health and mobility) benefits that may partially or completing compensate for what is lost.
But perhaps a compromise would involve some mitigation. Perhaps the County could use porous pavement, or add in a bioswale, or pay to remove and rehabilitate an equivalent amount of space from the substation access road across Carlin Springs. it appears that more of that has gravel/pavement than is needed.
Those who wish to speak up on this can write the board or speak on this project at the County Board's Recessed Meeting next Tuesday, June 16 at 6:30 PM.
Just a quick and very sloppy cost-benefit analysis.
Well, what's the harm to the environment? We're talking about a 200 foot long, 8 foot wide trail or 1600 sq. ft. of pavement. The Center for Neighborhood Technology (a green infrastructure advocacy group) puts the annual cost of runoff from 1 foot of pavement at about $1 a year. So $1600 a year is the annual environmental cost.
The benefit is greater cycling and walking utility. Yes, you can get to all the same places without it, just as one could get from Alexandria to National Harbor before the Wilson bike path opened, but you can do it faster, easier and more intuitively with the connection.
The best available alternative is a 300 foot detour. The average person will is willing to spend 30 minutes commuting, which makes for a 6 mile bike commute. A 300 foot detour reduces the number of people willing to bike commute (or other transportation) via that route by ~1%. How much would you the County be willing to pay per additional bike commuter? Or to make it more accessible to someone in a wheelchair? $1600 is a pretty small threshold.
Update: In a recent email from a more careful reader than me, in the documentation for this that I linked to above, the county notes that there is 0.49 acres of runoff catchment area for the 0.01 acres of pavement and that they are building a "permanent settling basin..to prevent runoff from reaching Four Mile Run." Here's more relevant facts:
THE PROJECT WILL RESULT IN AN ADDITION OF 1,840 SQUARE FEET (0.04 ACRES) OF NEW IMPERVIOUS SURFACE. THE PROJECT WILL DISTURB 3,320 SQUARE FEET OF LAND.
A DITCH WILL BE CONSTRUCTED ALONG THE UPSLOPE SIDE OF THE TRAIL BEGINNING AT THE WEST END WHERE IT CONNECTS TO THE EXISTING SIDEWALK. THE DITCH WILL FOLLOW THE TRAIL ALIGNMENT TO THE EAST. THE DITCH WILL BE DIRECTED TOWARDS A NATURAL DEPRESSION TO THE NORTHEAST. THE DITCH WILL BE LINED WITH NO. 57 STONE.
CALCULATIONS WERE PERFORMED USING THE VIRGINIA RUNOFF REDUCTION METHOD (VRRM) AND TR-55.
THE PRE-DEVELOPMENT HYDROLOGY WAS BASED ON A GOOD FORESTED CONDITION AND THE POST DEVELOPMENT HYDROLOGY WAS BASED ON THE PROPOSED CONDITIONS.
BASED ON THE VRRM THE PROJECT GENERATES 0.13LB/YEAR OF PHOSPHORUS. BASED ON A SITE ARE OF 0.13 ACRES, THIS RESULTS IN REQUIRED TREATMENT VOLUME OF 203 CUBIC FEET.
BASED ON THE ENERGY BALANCE EQUATION OF THE VRRM, APPROXIMATELY 238 CF OF STORAGE ARE REQUIRED FOR CHANNEL PROTECTION AND 391 CF ARE REQUIRED FOR THE FLOOD PROTECTION.
DUE TO THE SMALL SIZE OF THE DETENTION FACILITY REQUIRED AND MAINTENANCE CONCERNS, A SWM DETENTION FACILITY IS NOT BEING PROPOSED WITH THESE PLANS. HOWEVER, IN ORDER TO OFFSET THE STORAGE REQUIRED, A LARGER FACILITY FOR THIS AND OTHER PROJECTS WILL BE PROPOSED AT A LATER TIME.
June 16, 7 to 9 p.m., with the VDOT presentation at 7:30, at Henderson Middle School cafeteria, 7130 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.
June 17, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with the VDOT presentation at 7 p.m., Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington.
While not the primary objective of the project, improving bicycling in the area is a goal of the "multimodal" improvements. A 2012 review noted bottlenecks on the W&OD and Custis Trails and limitations/gaps in the bike/ped network. The earlier multimodal study identified "approximately 60 bicycle and pedestrian improvements" to recommend in the corridor. From the presentation in March, the plan is to:
Coordinate with local jurisdictions to group bicycle and pedestrian improvements that:
Impact bicycling and walking for the largest number of people
Accommodate longer distance commute trips along 66
Provide access to Metrorail and bus stops
Increase the utility and attractiveness of bicycling and walking
Improvements may include:
On-road bicycle facilities
New or improved off-road paths
Intersection improvements to enhance crossing safety
The Ad Hoc Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Committee will hold its seventh meeting on Monday, June 8, from 7 pm to 9. This meeting will be held at City Hall, Room 3008 (3rd Floor), 301 King Street. This meeting will focus on the pedestrian case study areas and pedestrian strategies. The meeting is open to the public.